By Christine Walewski
No time to get away? Turn your patio into a tropical retreat to kick off the season.
Place a piece of turquoise vellum (translucent paper) over a white postcard and hole-punch the two at the top. Tie them together with a piece of raffia. Or visit prettypaper.ca for their Beach Front invite featuring a palm tree. Remind guests to dress casually.
Turquoise and white bring to mind the breezy escape of a sunny getaway. Place single white orchid stems into bud vases. Scatter decorative turquoise glass beads around the table.
Set the table with straw placemats and use starfish and sand dollars to weigh down turquoise-coloured napkins and simple white placecards at each place setting. Glue small shells onto toothpicks and use to liven up the food display.
For the centrepiece, layer sand and shells in a large glass vase until it is half full. Then set a pillar candle on top for a ready-made lantern that can be lit after sunset.
Purchase large straw mats (available at Asian markets) to cover your patio and encourage guests to walk around barefoot. Large palm fronds placed in metal containers filled with sand do double-duty by weighing down the floor mats in case of wind and creating a “day at the beach” feeling.
Scent the air to remind guests of the Tropics by burning fragrance oil. Try The Body Shop’s Calm Water or Mango scents (bodyshop.com).
Caribbean and reggae music create a relaxed atmosphere. CDs to try: Music of the Sun by Rihanna, The Caribbean by Putumayo Presents, Best of Bob Marley or Best of Me by Maxi Priest.
Cocktail and Menu Ideas
Fire up the BBQ for mini burgers and chicken, shrimp and vegetable skewers. Try a honey mustard marinade for the chicken, and a lemon and herb marinade for the seafood (visit foodtv.ca for more ideas). Casual fare like sweet potato fries and coleslaw don’t involve a lot of prep time, allowing you to spend more time mingling. Bowls of fruit are also easy to prepare and great for snacking.
Rum punch garnished with starfruit is a summer classic, or try something new by mixing rum, pineapple juice and mango puree. Garnish with a slice of pineapple.
Give guests the option of participating in either relaxed or upbeat activities. Create an area where loose shells can be used to create gel candles. Melt gel wax and pour into votive glasses. Tape a wick to a Popsicle stick and rest it across the mouth of the glass. Add shells slowly as the gel cools and solidifies.
If space allows, a game of volleyball or a hula hoop contest are perfect beach pastimes.
Send guests home with a luggage tag for their next vacation. For a quirky option, visit annetaintor.com; a colourful one: theoriginallug.com. Visit sephora.com for travel-sized sunscreens that also make great vacation must-haves.